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Can transactional sex ever foster genuine emotional intimacy?

Tan-colored painting of Cambodian dancers. from: PWCD - Transactional Sex.

Much like the professional girlfriends in the Cambodian bar scene, these transactional relationships are more complex than a simple ‘sex-for-cash’ arrangement. There are multiple desires involved, including the obvious material commodities but also intimacy and a genuine affection (Leclerc-Madlala, 2003). Young women are assimilating ‘images of romantic love with a comfortable life’ and actively seeking to find a relationship based in material gain, along with a viable emotional connection (Leclerc, 2003, p. 223).

Women reported having better relationships with older men, feeling that they are better listeners and more ‘tender lovers’ (Leclerc- Madlala, 2003, p.220). However, women do not expect their male partners to be loyal and while this may not please them, there is a certain level of tolerance for this type of behavior. They keep the peace with their partner, so that they still receive gifts, but also understand that another woman is exploiting this man in the same way.

Dominican Republic…

For the bugarrones, gay sex workers of the Dominican Republic, the term prostitution does not seem appropriate in this case study either (Padilla, 2007). The gay bar Charlie’s in Santo Domingo, run by a British ex-patriot, is a hotspot for gay tourism. An alternative term, sanky panky, is also used to describe these male sex workers and are usually found on the beach (Padilla, 2007). A burgarron is a man who participates in anal sex as the penetrator but otherwise is a ‘normal man’ – masculine, not flamboyant.

Adopting A Bi-Lifestyle…

The burgarron model is very similar to gay sex tourism in Brazil, where ‘miches’ are young, masculine men who participate in homosexual activity with western tourists as an ‘activo’ participant only (Mitchell, 2011). They adapt a ‘bi’ lifestyle, mainly to aid with the performance of intimacy in their relationships (Mitchell, 2011). Bugarrones and miches often have longterm western clients who send them money and goods while abroad. Padilla describes how these long-term relationships can become complicated because the bugarron tries to remain emotionally distant – attempting to create a sense of authenticity, whilst also fostering a genuine emotional bond with their boyfriend or ‘Sugar Daddy.’ Padilla’s survey questioned several bugarrons about whether trust, affection or love was a part of their relationship. 67% stated they trusted their partner, 60% said they had affections for them and 22% categorized it as love. Furthermore, when asked if it was a possibility if any bugarron could fall in love with their ‘daddy,’ Padilla received a very positive answer of 79% believing it was possible (Padilla, 2007).

One miche interviewed by Mitchell, admitted that he missed his ‘gringo’, had genuine respect for his western boyfriend, and that if he needed anything, would happily help his partner. While this is not the ideal relationship for many western tourists, who feel they are ‘rescuing’ their miche from a life of prostitution and poverty, and who are willing their miche to ‘come out’ as gay, it is still a relationship where emotional intimacy occurs (Mitchell, 2011). Unfortunately, the tourist will ultimately become frustrated with the miche – who are still actually just straight men acting in a homosexual relationship (Mitchell, 2011). TURN PAGE

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